" Think About it..."
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True Police Stories
"Courage is the ability to move;
when all around you are frozen in fear
My Name is Kent Douglass
I worked for the Mesa Police Department for 20 years, and retired in 1993. I thought I was ready to quit police work and find a new career, but I discovered that I missed the job. I got back into law enforcement, and currently I am the port of entry manager at Fredonia, Arizona, where I do commercial vehicle enforcement. I also am a part-time deputy for the Fredonia Marshalís Office, where I continue to do traditional police work. The major change is that Mesa has a population of over 400,000, and Fredonia has a population of about 1100. Things are a little slower paced now.
I served a mission in Argentina from 1971-1973. It was there that I was inspired to become a police officer. I was excited about this, and I told each of my mission companions what I was going to do after the mission was over. Most of them were interested in my choice, but I was disappointed in the attitude of one companion. He ridiculed me and said things like, "Youíll look cool driving around in a patrol car wearing your little sunglasses." He did not cause me to waiver in my decision, but I tried to avoid the topic with him after that. This particular elder only lasted a few months in the mission, and opted to go home early. He did have some health problems, but he didnít have the greatest attitude either. I often wonder about him, and whether he is active in the church today.
I told a few of the church members in Argentina that I was going to become an officer after my mission. Police officers in Argentina at that time did not have a good reputation. People would ask why I would want to be a police officer. The idea seemed distasteful to them. That particular career was one of the lowest paying jobs in the country. Even the garbage collectors earned more than police officers. I was told that police officers were so hard to recruit in Buenos Aires that men were being drafted into the police department. I tried to explain to the Argentine people that police work in the United States is an honorable profession, but many were not convinced.
I had one memorable experience with the police in Argentina. I was in a house teaching a discussion to a man when his next door neighbor, a police officer, entered the house unannounced and asked what we were doing. I told him that we were representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and invited him to sit in on the discussion. He not only declined, but proceeded to order us out of the house. I asked if this was his house, and he said that it was not. I told him that we were there at the invitation of the man that we were visiting, and that this officer had no right to throw us out. Apparently he believed he did have the right, because he went home, got his handgun, and returned. He had the handgun in the front of his pants, and he was standing only about two feet from of me.
The handgun was at eye level to me.
However, I was hesitant to disarm the man since I was not a citizen of that country. I was afraid that I would go to jail even though I was in the right. I kept an eye on the officerís hands. I had already determined that if he made any motion to reach for the gun that I was going to take it from him. However, he never attempted to grab it. At that point he again ordered us out of the house, and we obeyed. My district leader, who was working with me that day instead of my regular companion, discussed the incident with me. He said he could tell that I was ready to spring at the officer, and he had been a little nervous about what I was going to do. We laughed a little about that, but we decided that this officer should not be able to throw us out of another personís house for no reason. I suggested that we go to the police station and report the incident. The attitudes of the other officers at the station disappointed me. Not only were they unconcerned about the illegal actions of one of their own, but they also all got a good laugh out of it.
We were about ready to leave the station when one of the officers agreed to make a report. I could tell by his attitude, however, that nothing was going to be done. He put a single piece of paper into the typewriter and began typing on it like he was writing a report, but he chuckled while he typed and I knew that the report would be tossed in the trash as soon as we left. Of course the police never contacted us again for any follow up investigation.
The incident with the Argentine officer
Shortly after I returned home from my mission I told my grandmother of my career choice. She sounded just as disgusted as the Argentine people had sounded, and said something like, ďOh, you donít want to get in with those people.Ē Her reaction surprised me. I had grown up with a great respect for the police, and here was my own grandmother trying to make me believe that this was some sort of lesser segment of society. Again, it only made me more determined to do a good work in my career choice.
I applied for the Mesa Police Department shortly after I arrived home from my mission, and hired on a few months later. I believe that one of the determining factors in being hired was that I speak Spanish. Prior to my testing, one of the sergeants asked to have a Spanish-speaking officer on his squad. It happened that I was the only Spanish-speaking person in my group of applicants who passed the tests. Iím grateful for my experience in Argentina and its role in helping me find employment with the Mesa Police Department.
I would like to share a few of my police experiences. The first one is when the department was considering updating the police library located in the main police station. One of the people in charge of upgrading the library had decided that new things were needed to encourage more people to stop at the library and use the resources there. That sounded like a good idea in principle, but I learned that one of his ideas was to order a subscription to Playboy. That particular magazine might not meet the legal definition of pornography, but I still consider it pornographic. Playboy magazines might have brought a few officers to the library, but I didnít believe that the magazines would bring the officers to the library for the right reason, and it certainly would not bring much enlightenment to their minds. It was one of the few times that I have started a campaign to get something stopped. I began contacting both LDS and non-LDS officers who I thought might be opposed to having taxpayer money pay for this kind of material. Fortunately we were able to cause enough of a stir to get the subscription stopped before it ever started. I felt good inside about that, although it didnít make me popular with those in favor of stocking the magazine.
My wife requests that I include this war-time experience of my father. He served as an officer in the Navy, assigned to the USS Oklahoma. He enjoyed his time in the Navy, and generally stayed on board ship to attend church services on Sunday. However, on one occasion he "happened" to run into a friend from elementary school. The friend invited Dad to spend the night at his apartment sometime. Dad waited several weeks before calling, but on December 6, 1941, he felt that he should call his old friend and take him up on his offer. He even took most of his money with him, which was something he had never done before. He spent the night at his friendís apartment, and they were attending church on the island the morning of December 7, when the Japanese attack began on Pearl Harbor. Many people on the Oklahoma died during the attack, and the ship received so much damage that it rolled over in the water, trapping several people inside. One of the torpedoes struck the ship right where Dadís cabin was located. If Dad had not listened and acted on the prompting to call his friend, Iím sure that I would not be sitting here at this minute writing this account. This experience has been an inspiration to me throughout my life.
Dad had received a promise in his patriarchal blessing
My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor a few years ago. We went to the Arizona Memorial, and while there, I told the tour guide that my Dad had been assigned to the Oklahoma. The guide was also a Pearl Harbor survivor and he pointed out to me where the Oklahoma had been docked. He then proceeded to tell us a few things about the Oklahoma. It was an honor to visit the place where so many of Dadís friends died. I appreciate the hardships and dedication of the war veterans, and the sacrifices they made.
There have been at least a half a dozen instances in which my life was protected on the job, and Iím sure there are others that I donít know about. I wanted to write about all of them, but it would take too long to describe each of the events to you.
I believe that the promise of a long life I received
Let me tell you about three incidents in which my life was protected. The first is one that I had forgotten about, but my wife reminded me of it. I had gone to a trailer park to search for a suspicious person. I checked the area for a few minutes, but when I was unable to find him, I left and went back on patrol. We received another call a few minutes later. This time two officers were sent because the caller reported that the suspicious person was now carrying a rifle. We located the man, and took the rifle from him without any further problem. He admitted, however, that he had gone to his residence to retrieve the rifle when he saw me enter the park the first time. He said that he crawled underneath a mobile home to try to sneak up and gun me down, but I left before he was able to get into a good enough position to fire at me.
A second memorable experience came at the beginning of a shift. Officers going off-duty are supposed to top off the fuel tanks of the patrol cars so the oncoming officers can go straight to work. I started my shift one day and discovered that the officer that had gone off duty had left my gas tank over half empty. I went to the gas pumps to fill the tank with fuel, but while I was there, a caller reported a suspicious person in an orange grove--and the call was in my beat. Another officer took the call since I was out of service, but I hurried to finish filling the tank and get there. However, before I could respond, the officer who was handling the call reported shots fired.
I was speeding that way when the officer advised,
Backup officers later shot the suspect when he pointed a rifle at them, but both the suspect and the officer lived through the ordeal. The suspect later went to a psychiatric hospital after the court declared him incompetent to stand trial. He told investigators that he was shooting evil spirits. The officerís wound was in the cheek, and the bullet followed the skin line around and lodged against his spine. The doctors determined that it would be less dangerous to leave the bullet in place than to try to remove it surgically. I have wondered many times since then what would have happened if my gas tank had been full at the beginning of the shift.
The final incident that I would like to share is one in which I assisted the Maricopa County Sheriffís Office in a pursuit of a bank robber. The deputies reported that the suspect was shooting at them. I waited near the city limits until the suspect vehicle and deputies passed me. I pulled in behind the deputies, and just a few blocks down the road the suspect made a U-turn. Just after he turned he shot at a deputyís vehicle, hitting the vehicle in the front driverís side door.
The bullet entered the vehicle just an inch or two under the officerís seat.
I then became the lead car in the pursuit as the deputyís vehicle pulled off into the median with vehicle problems. During the pursuit, I crouched in the seat, and veered to the right every time the suspect held his handgun out the window. No bullets ever hit my patrol car, but two or three other patrol cars were hit.
The suspect cruised happily along throwing beer cans out the window as we went. After committing a bank robbery I guess he wasnít very concerned about a DUI arrest. He shot at officers, police cars, a gas tanker truck, a camper, and whatever else he encountered along the route. He later said that he had been trying to cause a wreck so that we would quit chasing him. He passed several places where Department of Public Safety Officers were set up. Many of these officers shot at the suspect as he passed and although he was never hit by a bullet, we found numerous bullet and shotgun pellet holes in the door and window frame around his head. The only injury he received happened when a shotgun pellet hit his steering wheel, causing the steering wheel to fragment into his nose. I donít remember the exact number of shots that were fired during the pursuit, but I believe the suspect fired about 17 rounds.
I went so far out of Mesa City limits that I no longer had radio contact with anyone. I was depending upon the sheriffís office and the Department of Public Safety to notify the City of our location. About 50 miles into the pursuit a DPS helicopter flew over my car.
I watched as the aircraft observer (passenger)
Moments later, however, the observer reentered the aircraft. I didnít know what was going on, since I could pick up nothing on my radio. We went around a bend in the road, and then I realized why the helicopter observer had withdrawn inside. A captain from the Kearny Police Department had commandeered a semi-truck, and the truck and trailer were blocking the entire roadway, with no room to go around. The suspect stopped and put his hands out of the window. I drew down on him, but I saw that two of the deputies were running toward the suspect vehicle instead of the standard operating procedure of ordering the suspect from the vehicle. Both deputies headed toward the driverís side of the vehicle. I decided that the best way to provide cover for the deputies was to approach from the passenger side of the vehicle. When I got there the suspect was still sitting in the vehicle and holding his hands out the window. The suspectís handgun was on the seat next to him, so I grabbed it to make sure he didnít decide to pick it up and use it. The pursuit covered about 55 miles, and I was told that it was the longest pursuit in Mesaís history up to that point.
Most police officers have a lot of incredible experiences,
One day while I was working in the jail, a prisoner was brought in. I could tell when he entered that he was LDS. I canít remember exactly why he was there, but it wasnít for a major offense. I could see that he was depressed over his arrest, so I talked to him for a few minutes and we built a good rapport. Eventually, however, I had to escort him back to his jail cell. I just happened to have an Ensign magazine with me, which is a publication of the LDS church. There wasnít much reading material in the jail, so I offered to let him read the Ensign. Although it was only a small gesture of fellowship, he offered his sincere thanks and appreciation. I believe he told me the next day that he had read the entire magazine, and again repeated his gratitude for allowing him to read it. I was pleased that I was able to uplift someone in this small way.
At least twice I have been asked to give a priesthood blessing to someone while I was at work. Both of these experiences helped strengthen my testimony. On one of those occasions I arrived at a house prior to the emergency-care givers. A woman at the house had apparently suffered a stroke, and although she was breathing, she was unresponsive to anything we said or did. The relatives in the house knew that I am LDS and they asked me to give a blessing to the woman. I told them that I would be happy to. As I placed my hands on her head the Spirit told me that she would not survive. Although it was probably not what the family wanted, it strengthened my testimony to know that I was being told what was going to happen. I blessed her that she would not suffer and that the Lordís will would be manifest. I learned a day or two later that she had passed peacefully away.
It has been said that people know who we are. I learned this was true from a man whose wife needed medical treatment. I did not know the man, and he did not know me or any of the medical personnel who arrived at the house. However, it happened that none of the emergency personnel were LDS. The man asked everyone to wait outside a moment, except for me. He asked me to step inside with him.
He told me that he knew I must be a priesthood holder
He said that he didnít have that feeling with any of the other people who had come to help his wife. He then asked if I would help give a blessing to his wife before she was taken to the hospital, which I did. I was amazed that he would know that I was the only priesthood holder there when he didnít know any of us personally. I never saw either of them again, but it was a humbling experience.
Iím not sure that I am tuned in to the Spirit enough
I know this church is true. Through its teachings my wife and I have been able to raise six fine sons. One of them has followed in my footsteps and is currently working as an officer at the Mesa Police Department. So far, five of my six sons have served full-time missions for the church. The youngest will be turning 19 later this year and he is preparing himself for service as a missionary also. I do not know where we would be without the influence of the gospel in our lives, but I know our family condition would be much worse without it. I am thankful to my Savior for His sacrifice for each of us. In some way that we cannot fully understand, He took upon Himself all of our sins so that we will not have to suffer if we will follow His footsteps, repent and obey the commandments. Why do people choose to submit themselves to eternal torment and suffering? One day people will suffer in awareness of what might have been had they but followed the teachings of the Lord and Master.
All we have to do is follow the path of Jesus Christ
I know and testify that the joy Jesus Christ brings is within our grasp.
Deputy Kent Douglass,
If you are or were a police officer,
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Thank you and God bless,
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